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Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

The Tufted Duck is the UK’s most common diving duck and a familiar sight on lakes and ponds across the country. Known for their long, hair-like tufts, these small waterfowl are fairly easy to identify but may be confused with other ducks from the Aythya genus.

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Female Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck

Female Tufted Duck swimming with her young

Tufted Duck

Tufted Duck taking-off from the reservoir

Tufted Duck

Female Tufted Duck on land flapping

Quick Facts


Scientific name:

Aythya fuligula

Other names:

Tufted Pochard


Ducks, geese and swans

Conservation status:




40cm to 47cm


65cm to 73cm


450g to 1.02kg

Appearance & Identification

What do Tufted Ducks look like?

Adult male Tufted Ducks have a distinctive hanging crest. From a distance, these small ducks appear black with large white patches on their sides. Their dark plumage has a beautiful oily iridescence that reflects purple and green in good light. They have yellow eyes and a pale blue bill with a dark tip.

Female Tufted Ducks are easily distinguished from males. They have a much shorter tuft and lack the conspicuous white sides of the male. They have brown sides and dark brown upper parts without the purple gloss of the males. Some females have a whitish patch of plumage around the base of their bill.

In the UK, females are most likely to be confused with female Pochard and Scaup. American birdwatchers should rule out Greater and Lesser Scaup, which are common migratory waterfowl in the USA. Juvenile Tufted Ducks resemble adult females but have darker eyes and a darker bill.

Tufted duck swimming

Male Tufted Duck

Female tufted duck swimming

Female Tufted Duck

How big are Tufted Ducks?

Tufted Ducks are small waterfowl, much larger than the Teal but smaller than the Mallard. Hens are slightly smaller than drakes on average.


Tufted Ducks have a body length of 40 to 47 centimetres or 16 to 18 inches.


Male Tufted Ducks weigh 600 to 1020 grams (1lb 5oz - 2lb 4oz), while females weigh 560 to 930 grams (1lb 4oz - 2lb 1oz).


They have a wingspan of 65 to 73 centimetres or 25 to 29 inches.

Tufted Duck on the rocks flapping

Tufted Duck on the rocks flapping

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a Tufted Duck make?

Tufted Ducks are generally quiet, although the males and females produce various soft calls during courtship, including quacks, whistles, and grunts. They also call in flight and to communicate with their young.

Tufted Duck swimming in the lake

Tufted Duck swimming in the lake


What do Tufted Ducks eat?

Tufted Ducks are omnivorous, feeding on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. Molluscs like snails and mussels are their most important food source, although they also eat small insects and crustaceans.

These diving ducks find most of their food down on the bottom, although they also dabble and take food from the surface.

What do Tufted Duck chicks eat?

Tufted Duck ducklings eat insects and seeds. They feed themselves and can dive down to find food as soon as they leave the nest.

Tufted Duck with a mussel in its beak

Tufted Duck with a mussel in its beak

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Tufted Duck?

Tufted Ducks inhabit a variety of freshwater habitats. They prefer moderately deep (3-5m) still waters, although you may spot them in any of the following habitats:

  • Lakes
  • Gravel pits
  • Ponds
  • Reservoirs
  • Larger rivers
  • Canals

What is the range of a Tufted Duck?

Tufted Ducks are widespread in the UK, occurring practically everywhere except high-lying areas in the north of Scotland. They are widely distributed in the old world, from Iceland in the west to Japan and the Bering Sea in the east.

They also visit North and East Africa in the non-breeding season. Tufted Ducks are a rarity in the United States and Canada, although vagrants turn up on both the west and east coasts.

Where do Tufted Ducks live?

Tufted Ducks are highly aquatic waterfowl that are most comfortable out on the water. They also spend time on land, floating vegetation, or islands when nesting but remain near the water’s edge.

Tufted Ducks resting on land near to the water

Tufted Ducks resting on land near to the water

How rare are Tufted Ducks?

Tufted Ducks are common waterfowl, with up to 19,000 resident breeding pairs in the UK. Their numbers increase greatly in the winter when over a hundred thousand birds arrive from Mainland Europe and Asia.

Where can you see Tufted Ducks in North America?

Tufted Ducks are very rare in the United States. Vagrants occasionally arrive from Europe to the east and Asia to the west.

Where can you see Tufted Ducks in the UK?

Birdwatchers can spot Tufted Ducks on just about any freshwater body in the UK, including lakes, ponds, rivers, and even in urban areas. These attractive waterfowl are present throughout the year, although they are most common in the winter months.

Male (right) and Female (left) swimming together in the lake

Male (right) and Female (left) swimming together in the lake

Lifespan & Predation

How long do Tufted Ducks live?

Tufted Ducks have a typical lifespan of about four years, although they can live for over 24 years.

What are the predators of Tufted Ducks?

Adult Tufted Ducks have few enemies, although their eggs and ducklings are more vulnerable. Nest predators include Marsh Harriers, Crows, Ravens, and Mink.

Are Tufted Ducks protected?

Tufted Ducks are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Are Tufted Ducks endangered?

Tufted Ducks are a ‘Least Concern’ species on the IUCN Red List and have a green conservation status in the United Kingdom. They are not endangered and have a stable population trend.

Tufted Ducks flying over the water

Tufted Ducks flying over the water

Nesting & Breeding

Where do Tufted Ducks nest?

Tufted Ducks nest on the ground, often between grass or other vegetation. They nest alone or in small groups with several meters between nests. Females build their nests from grass stalks and line them with down and soft plant material.

When do Tufted Ducks nest?

Tufted Ducks begin breeding in their first year as adults. They start nesting in the spring when the female lays and incubates her eggs for 23 to 28 days. The ducklings associate with their mother for up to 42 days before she leaves them to fend for themselves.

What do Tufted Duck eggs look like?

Tufted Ducks lay a single clutch of eight to eleven grey-green eggs, each measuring about 59 millimetres long and 41 millimetres wide.

Do Tufted Ducks mate for life?

Tufted Ducks do not mate for life. Pairs form in spring and separate soon afterwards in the summer.

Nest of a Tufted duck with nine eggs

Nest of a Tufted duck with nine eggs


Are Tufted Ducks aggressive?

Tufted Ducks are social and gregarious, forming large flocks in the winter. These birds are not known for their aggression, although they may defend their nest territory in the breeding season.

Where do Tufted Ducks sleep at night?

Tufted Ducks sleep on the water. They are not strictly diurnal and may sleep during the day and feed at night.

Pair of Tufted Ducks sleeping on a log at the edge of a river

Pair of Tufted Ducks sleeping on a log at the edge of a river


Do Tufted Ducks migrate?

Tufted Ducks are a common resident species in England, although they are migratory in the north of the United Kingdom. Many individuals that breed in Scotland move south into Ireland and England for the non-breeding season.

These birds are highly migratory in other parts of their range, and large numbers migrate to the UK each winter after breeding in Scandinavia and Western Russia. Tufted Ducks that breed in Iceland spend the winter in Ireland.

Are Tufted Ducks native to North America?

Tufted Ducks are not native to North America. They occasionally reach American shores but do not breed or migrate there regularly.

Are Tufted Ducks native to the UK?

Tufted Ducks are native to the United Kingdom, although their numbers have dramatically increased in the last three centuries. These birds colonised the British Isles in the mid-19th century after the introduction of a mollusc called the Zebra Mussel and have benefited greatly from the construction of new gravel pits and reservoirs.

Tufted Duck in-flight over lake

Tufted Duck in-flight over lake


How deep can Tufted Ducks dive?

Tufted Ducks can dive to the impressive depth of 14 meters or about 46 feet, although most dives are down to about five meters. They dive frequently, spending up to 20 seconds under the water and often dive twice per minute.

Do Tufted Ducks eat fish?

Tufted Ducks generally feed on plants and slow-moving or stationary invertebrates. Fish are not a regular part of their diet, although they would probably take a small fish if they could catch it.

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